the blog

Birdsville 2013

Hi All, I thought I’d share, while it’s still fairly fresh in my head.

I took holidays in the last two weeks of October with the plan of heading out to Birdsville and seeing outback Queensland. Spring warmed up a little early this year, but it was difficult enough to get leave from work, so I knew I'd just have to suck it up :-) As my wife wasn't interested in swealtering in the outback, I got to have a boys own adventure all on my own. Woohoo!

The setup I went with was fairly basic:  An esky with no ice to store food like bread etc so that it wouldn't sweat in the heat of the car and chunky tinned soups, noodles, muesli, and anything else that will keep unrefridgerated. I supplemented this with the occasional (read 'regular') pub dinner.
I had a few last minute things to do on the day I embarked, so after a late start my first stop was the free camp at the Chinchilla Wier before heading for Charleville the next day. I didn't stop much along the way as we had done the trip to Charleville a few years ago.  After Charleville, I headed off on the Diamantina Dev road to Quiplie the next morning, stopping along the way at the FoxTrap roadhouse for a ginger beer and a rest.  

The caravan park at Quilpie was a good place to stop at with great facilities and was a nice place to rest up. While I was at Quilpie, I took a run out to Lake Houdraman and explored all the tracks around there (any excuse to stay in the aircon and avoid the 40+ temperature :-). The info centre told me Baldy Top was the place to be at sunset and they sure were right.

Next stop was Windorah. I stayed at the caravan park, rather than the free camp site just outside town as it was just $5 per night for an unpowered site ($10 for powered) with a bran new facilities building (showers, toilet, laundry). On the east side of Windorah is a 12km ‘Nature Drive’ that starts just outside town and ends at Cooper’s Creek. You basically drive along a dirt track and there are signposts to tell you what you are looking at (spinifex, bloodwood tree, coolabah tree etc). I found this useful later as I was able to identify what I was looking at.   At one point I had to get out of the car and open a gate ... wow, the heat on that red sand was so intense, it felt like I was standing in front of a furnace and I could really understand how you could lose your life quickly without shade and water.

I popped by the Windorah info centre to check on the road condition and the girls told me the road was very stony and badly corrugated and that I could expect to be travelling at around 60-70km/h the whole way. Also, being the end of the tourist season, they said if I get stuck, it could be a couple of days before somebody finds me as there was almost no traffic moving out along there. They told me to take plenty of water, at least 30 litres, and I could certainly understand why as I has found myself drinking plenty on that very hot day. Now, being very green (and not ever having seen first-hand an outback dirt road), I chickened out and decided to stay on the Diamantina Development Road and travel to Birdsville via Bedourie, which was an extra couple of hundred kilometres. The unsealed Diamantina Development Road was in great condition and such a great run with plenty of scenery changes (clay pan, channel country, grassland, desert etc) and I stopped many times to take photos along the way.

When I arrived at Birdsville, I discovered from a fellow traveller that the Birdsville Development Road was actually in quite good condition, so I needn't have worried (damn!). There were plenty of tracks on the outskirts of town to explore, as well as the Burke and Wills tree to see, and the Waddi trees to the north of town, but we all know the big drawcard :-). For the three nights I was there, the winds from the south were blowing furiously, bringing the daytime temperatures down to the mid 30s (thank goodness!). On my first attempt to see the Big Red, it was so very windy, and the dust in the air reduced visibility to almost nothing at times, so I turned back to try again later. The second attempt was a nice easy run and after reducing the tyre pressue to 18PSI, the X-Trail cruised up with the greatest of ease.

VIDEO: Trekking out to the edge of the Simpson Desert
VIDEO: Climbing the red dune

When I left Birdsville to head for Bedourie and Boulia, I took the Lake Machatte detour. It was a little rough in places, but not too bad, and there were some great spinifex covered dunes to see, making it interesting and worthwhile. This road takes you within a couple of km of the lake and apparently you can see it from the road, but sadly I saw no sign to tell me when and where to look for it :-P

I travelled back home via Boulia, Winton, Longreach, Blackall, and Tambo.  On reflection, I think I would have been better off going back along the Birdsville Dev Road and maybe up through Jundah to Longreach? ... maybe next time.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the read,


Being there

A few days ago I went out to shoot a sunrise with a couple of fellow photographers which re-enforced to me how important it is to ‘be there’, even if you think the conditions don’t look promising.

The forecast for the morning seemed to indicate there would be a chance of fog and about 20% cloud cover.  With that in mind, a location was agreed and we headed out in the early hours of the following morning.  We arrived about 90 minutes before sunrise, took some test shots while we waited for the predawn light to start.

Over the next hour the clouds began to grow quite heavy and the chance of fog completely vanished.  Though the conditions weren’t anything like what we were expecting, we stuck it out to see what would come when the sun actually rose.

The clouds grew heaver still, yet the breeze died and the lake seemed to turn into a mirror.  So we each set about trying to capture the reflections of the mountains on the water and the rocks at the lake’s edge in the pale pre-dawn light.

It was at about this time that the top of the mountain opposite us lit up red like fire.  Well, it goes without saying there was a sudden flurry of photographic activity, lenses being changed, shutters firing, etc.

This beam of light moved down the face of the mountain and spread to the trees below along the water’s edge.  The sun behind us was peeking through the gap between the land and the clouds creating a horizontal beam of light that lasted about six or seven minutes.

While we all came home with other shots, we’d been there for those few minutes of magic light and were able to witness (and photograph) a chance event.


The thing to remember is:

Sometimes we don’t get the conditions we expect and we have to look for alternative shots or styles.  Sometimes we have to just wait and see what happens.  But, it’s almost always worth being there.

Hervey Bay

I recently had the pleasure of taking a couple of days holiday at Hervey Bay.  Everyone that I have ever spoken to about this place said it was a very beautiful spot, so I just had to go and see for myself.  Well, it sure didn’t disappoint, despite the intermittent weather, and I will definitely be heading back again; and for a little longer than two days.

When we arrived, I was gob-smacked at the water.  So still, seemingly all the way to the unbroken horizon; it looked like a massive sheet of ice.  In fact, much of Hervey bay is picturesque and I was spoilt for choices of places to photograph. 

The Urangan Pier
The pier, of course, is worth a look for that classic very, vey long pier shot.  It was built in 1917 to facilitate the export of sugar and later coal. These days the pier is a tourist attraction and young fisher’s mecca. In 2007 the Hervey Bay City Council (Now the Fraser Coast Regional Council) set aside a further $1.65 million for further Urangan Pier restoration works.  The Pier is an impressive structure with it’s locally sourced turpentine wood piles that support over a mile of decking.

Point Vernon
The shoreline around Point Vernon is mostly volcanic rock and is home to some very weather worn mangrove trees.  These magroves are bent and twisted like natural bonsai.  While the tides and the windy weather made photographing them difficult for me this time, I would say mid-tide on a calm morning, when you can get out amongst the shallow water and the mangroves, would be awesome.

 Check out the rest of the Hervey Bay images at my Flickr stream!